14 Sep 2006

Australia says it could cut aid to Solomon Islands in diplomatic stand off

7:55 pm on 14 September 2006

The Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, says Australia must see less corruption and better governance in Solomon Islands if it is to continue pouring money into the country.

Australia is at loggerheads with the Solomons government over its decision to expel high commissioner Patrick Cole, whom it accuses of meddling in local politics.

In response, Canberra has said it will clamp down on visas for Solomon Islands politicians and has hinted it may look again at its generous aid budget.

Mr Howard today told ABC Radio that Australia remained concerned about corruption and poor governance in the Solomons and wants to see a return on its investment.

He also says that if Australia is to continue to pour the millions of dollars of our taxpayers' money into the Solomons then in return there has be an improvement in economic growth, some reduction in corruption and some improvement in governance.


The Solomon Islands opposition leader, Fred Fono, has called on the government to quickly resolve the diplomatic stand off with Australia.

He says the row could impact on Australia's bilateral aid to the Solomons.

Mr Fono says Australia is the biggest contributor to the Regional Assistance Mission through which it is funding the security and judicial sectors.

He says, in addition, it gives money to health, the environment sector and forestry.

Mr Fono says Solomon Islands is not in a position to lose this aid, especially as it rebuilds itself.


The Solomon Islands Government has accused Australia of being harsh and bullying over the expulsion of Mr Cole.

However it wants Prime Minister John Howard to visit Honiara and talk matters through.

A spokesman for prime minister Sogavare says Mr Howard is going to invited to visit the Solomons for discussions and to hear the Solomons' point of view.